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MIN@CLE: Kazmir strikes out eight over six innings

The Indians last hosted the Mets in 2010, and New York swept a three-game set from Cleveland. That season, the playoffs were nowhere in sight for the Tribe. Getting swept by the Mets was a rough patch in a season that included many more.

On Friday, the Indians will be hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Cleveland remains in striking distance of the second American League Wild Card spot, and has a chance to build momentum against the young Mets. Former New York prospect Scott Kazmir will start for the Indians, while Zack Wheeler will be on the mound for the Mets.

For the past six games, the Indians have battled the Tigers and the Orioles, the latter of which Cleveland is chasing in the Wild Card race. Playing well this weekend could go a long way toward providing momentum at a crucial time in the season.

Kazmir was drafted by the Mets in 2002, but they traded him to the Rays two years later in a deal for Victor Zambrano. This will be the 29-year-old's first opportunity to pitch against his first professional organization.

The left-hander is coming off a rough outing on Saturday against the Tigers, in which he allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings. Kazmir struggled with his command, and it cost him.

"The first couple of innings were a little rough," Kazmir said after that loss. "I got out of a jam in the first inning, just wasn't hitting my spots. I was able to get ahead of hitters, but when it came down to making a pitch in the first couple of innings, the ball would be left up or out over the middle of the plate."

Meanwhile, Wheeler will be looking to build on a string of strong starts.

Since being called up to the Major Leagues in June, Wheeler has continued to show improvement in navigating big league lineups. With more consistent fastball command recently, Wheeler has shown the promise that made him a highly touted prospect.

Against the Nationals on Saturday, the right-hander allowed two runs on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings to win his seventh game of the season. Wheeler has pitched five straight quality starts, with an impressive 2.51 ERA over that span.

"He's throwing strikes. That's what we're seeing," Mets manager Terry Collins said after that start. "He's not trying to strike people out, which is what everybody thought, with the great arm he had, people were looking for that. I think when he got up here, he thought he had to do that. I think while he was here, he said, 'Hey, look, I don't have to. I can get outs if I pitch to contact, and stay in games longer.'"

Mets: Murphy continues hot hitting

With his 2-for-4 performance at the plate on Wednesday, including a triple in the first inning, Daniel Murphy extended his hitting streak to nine games. He's 17-for-37 (.459) over that span.

• Lucas Duda went 3-for-5 on Wednesday, and he is now 8-for-21 (.381) in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Indians: Masterson to miss start with strained oblique

Justin Masterson left Monday's game against the Orioles after pitching to just five batters, stricken by soreness on the left side of his rib cage. An MRI on Tuesday revealed the right-hander has a left oblique strain, causing him to miss at least one start. Corey Kluber will start in his place on Saturday against the Mets.

Masterson is 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA. Losing him would certainly hurt the Indians in the middle of the playoff race.

"With these types of things, I think it's probably reasonable to think that he's going to miss a little time here," manager Terry Francona said. "The hope would be that it's not the rest of the season. But we'll just keep monitoring him and see how he's progressing. We're certainly not going to do something that's not in his best interest, either."

Worth noting

• Including Wednesday's 6-4 victory over the Orioles, the Indians have scored an average of just three runs over their past 11 games. Cleveland has been outscored, 44-33, over that span.

• The Indians are scheduled to play 17 straight days following Thursday's off-day.

• The Mets are 5-1 all-time in Cleveland, 7-2 against the Tribe overall.

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